So, with nothing else to post, here's an excerpt from another one of my books, currently one with no name.
"Kanita," a frantic whisper cut through the whistles of boiling pots.
"Yes?" she said over her shoulder. She slipped the last of the garlic into the soup pot and wiped her hands on her apron. She examined her fingers with a sigh. It seemed that they were forever stained.
Kanita whirled around. "What's wrong?"
Meria's blue eyes were wide and worried, partially hidden by her ever-messy black hair. "They're taking her."
Kanita tore her apron off and yanked her hair out of its holder. "They can't. Madam Semia promised."
Skirt swishing, Kanita pushed past Meria and through the door that led to the dining room. "Where are they?"
"Room," Meria said simply, jogging to keep up with Kanita's long, boyish strides.
Kanita pounded up the stairs to the attic and burst into the bedroom that the three girls shared. Other than a simple wardrobe, a flimsy mattress, and a crib pushed up against one wall, the room was empty. Kanita crossed over to the crib and pushed aside the pale green blanket. "Kiryn," she sighed. The little girl was curled up on her side, cherub-like face peaceful in slumber. Kanita felt her face harden. "They can't take her. Madam Semia promised that she wouldn't put her up for adoption."
"She lied," Meria repeated.
"One more year, Meria!" Kanita cried. "Less than that and I'll be able to take you and Kiryn."
Meria looked troubled, and she pushed her hair back. "Shh. Kiryn."
Kanita took in a breath and perched on the edge of the mattress. "Thank you, Meria," she said, her voice calm. "I'll be quiet now." She watched Kiryn for a moment. Her auburn hair was still short and slightly irregular from the time Madam Semia had left a garden knife out, but it was so curly, it was hard to see the uneven ends. Her eyelashes were long and angelic, and her nose was small and sloped. "She looks so much like her mother," Kanita whispered as she blinked back tears.
Meria stepped forward cautiously and knelt beside Kanita. "Sorry," she managed.
"Oh, no, sweetie," Kanita said, reaching for the girl. "You're not upsetting me. It was good of you to come get me." She pulled Meria to her side and left an arm around her shoulders. "Did you happen to hear when they're coming for her?"
Meria nodded slowly. "Tomorrow. Dawn."
Kanita frowned and looked down at her feet. "Dawn." She thought for a few moments, then nodded. "Alright, then. We leave tonight."
Meria's eyes grew wide. "What?"
"We leave tonight," Kanita repeated, rising to her feet and hurrying to the wardrobe. She pulled out a coin purse and weighed it in her hand. "We'll pack up and take Peter and Ahlegra. And we better bring a map. Surely Master DeVayn won't miss just one." She paused when she realized that Meria was still sitting there, staring at her as if she had gone crazy. Well, maybe I have, she thought. She turned and leaned against the wardrobe. "Look, Meria. My service is up in less than a year, but there's nothing to say Madam Semia won't extend it again. We have to go now, before she sends Kiryn away."
Meria's eyebrows knit together as she thought. She looked over at Kiryn, then up at Kanita. "Al…alright."
"Do you have it?" Kanita asked after she pulled Meria to the side. The younger girl nodded and pressed a small, folded square of paper into Kanita's hand. She smiled and whispered, "Excellent."
"Kanita," Madam Semia called from the table. "The bread is a bit crusty and the soup is slightly burned. Where you having trouble in the kitchen?"
Kanita slipped the map into her apron pocket and hurried back to the table. "Yes, actually, the… uh… the stove wasn't working properly." Her conscience gnawed at the back of her mind for telling a lie, but she couldn't very well say that she forgot about the food because she was worrying over Kiryn.
"Oh. Well, I suppose I will have to look at it later." Her black eyes glinted with false compassion as she smiled at Kanita. "Don't worry about the soup, darling. The burned taste adds flavor."
Kanita hung around the table to see if Madam Semia was going to say anything about Kiryn's leaving, but after a bite of bread, Madam Semia looked up with concern. "Do you have something to tell me? Is that why you aren't eating with Meria in the kitchen?"
"No, ma'am," Kanita said, curtsying slightly as she backed into the kitchen. Anger knotted in her stomach as she stomped over to the mat. What would Madam Semia gain from keeping this from Kanita? She knew that it would make Kanita even more upset to wake up in the morning and find Kiryn gone. Maybe she expected Kanita to run, to take Kiryn and Meria away. Well, Kanita thought satisfactorily as she untied her apron and slung it over the hook by the stove, she was right.
Meria was already portioning the previous day's leftover soup into three bowls and dividing a meager loaf in a few pieces. She looked up when Kanita sat down. "Good?" she asked carefully.
Kanita nodded. "Yes, it's good. Madam Semia can't suspect a thing."
Meria flashed a rare smile, dimples appearing briefly in her cheeks. "Good. Eat."
Kanita took her soup into her lap and was about to start eating when the door clattered open. "'Nita! M'ia!" Kiryn ran into the kitchen, plopping her chunky legs down on the mat beside Kanita. "What we havin'?"
"Soup," Kanita said jovially, passing Kiryn her bowl.
Kiryn wilted. "But I tireda soup."
"Don't worry," Kanita whispered. "I put something in it to make it yummy."
Kiryn smiled and dipped a spoon into the bowl, glowing when she brought it to her mouth. "Yummy!" she cried. "What you do?"
Kanita winked. "Why, now, I can't tell you. It would ruin the secret."
Meria raised an eyebrow, but Kanita shook her head to imply that she didn't put anything in. Meria's eyes took on a humorous glint, and she nodded.
"So, Kiryn," Kanita said slowly. "Are you doing anything special soon?"
Kiryn frowned and put her bowl down. "Yeah. Ma'am S'mia says I go on trip t'morrow. That I gonna get a new mommy." Her emerald eyes started to look watery. "But 'Nita, I don't want a mommy. Ma'am S'mia says you gonna stay here w' M'ia."
Kiryn started to cry as Kanita took her in her arms and rocked her back and forth. "It's okay, baby. It's gonna be okay."
A candle flickered in Kanita's hand as she opened the wardrobe and took out her mother's old cloak. The dark green cloth was still in pristine condition, even after being locked up for most of the past five years, only to be taken out on the coldest of winter nights when it was needed as a blanket. Beside it was the blue cloak that once belonged to Meria's mother, also immaculate.
Kanita tossed the cloak around her shoulder and knotted the ties, twisting her hair carefully under the hood. She waited while Meria put on her cloak, then carefully lifted Kiryn into her arms. She maneuvered Kiryn's head to rest on her shoulder so that she could still hold the candle. Meria scooped up the two bundles and nodded for Kanita to go.
Leading the way silently down the stairs, Kanita went through the kitchen and out the back door. She could just hardly see the roof of the barn where it rose above the trees. She cut herself off when she started to whistle as she always did to let the horses know she was coming. If ever there was a need for silence, it was now.
The barn door was locked, but Meria had thoughtfully remembered the key. She stepped around Kanita and fumbled with the latch for a moment before she was able to push the door open. Kanita laid Kiryn against the wall as she used her candle to light the lanterns, then blew the candle out and went to fetch the saddles. In what felt like hours but was, in fact, only a few minutes, she and Meria had saddled Peter and Ahlegra.
Kanita quickly tied their bundles behind Peter's saddle and looped the reins around a hitching post. She helped Meria mount, hefted Kiryn up to sit in front of her, and mounted Peter. She blew out the lanterns as she passed them and grabbed the last one to take with her. Though tension throbbed through her, she carefully kept Peter at a walk as they passed the house, only picking up a gentle trot when they reached the road. She checked to make sure Meria was keeping up and relaxed.
She was free at last.